Posted by Bryan Fischer
PASADENA, Calif. -- Wisconsin's run for the roses quickly turned into a track meet that they just couldn't keep up with.
The second half of the granddaddy of them all opened much like the first: offense, offense and - a strange concept to the SEC - more offense as Oregon finally broke through and won a BCS game under Chip Kelly 45-38 in front of 91,245 at the 98th edition of the Rose Bowl.
The Ducks, receiving the kickoff to open the second frame, needed just three plays and 48 seconds to find the end zone - with most of the work done by De'Anthony Thomas on a 64-yard touchdown run along the sideline (complete with an escort blocker). At that point, the speedy freshman was averaging 78 yards per carry and, as colleague Bruce Feldman tweeted, the only thing slow about him Monday evening was the apostrophe in his name.
A big run on the ensuing kick return by Jared Abbrederis for 60 yards setup Wisconsin in Oregon territory but they just couldn't capitalize. Running back Montee Ball did end up hurdling two defenders to pick up a first down on the drive but paid the price with a shot to the, um, sensitive area. Phillip Welch booted a 29-yard field goal to pull the Badgers to within 35-31.
The defense held Oregon to just their second three-and-out of the day with a big stop of Kenjon Barner on third down to force a punt.
Russell Wilson led the Badgers down the field with his arms and the legs on the next possession, picking up a big first down to sustain the drive with his legs on a 17-yard run. A few plays later he found Nick Toon in the end zone for an 18-yard strike that gave Wisconsin the lead back at 38-35.
A promising drive started out with Darron Thomas hitting Lavasier Tuinei for big 35-yard gain over the middle of the field and over a defender to push into Wisconsin territory. The drive stalled however after a sack and holding penalty pushed the Ducks back. Thomas dropped back on 3rd-and-18 but his pass across the middle was tipped by De'Anthony Thomas and into the hands of Aaron Henry to give the defense another stop and much-needed momentum late in the 3rd quarter.
The offense took over from there but Wilson gave it right back, throwing a pass low intended for a receiver that was picked off by linebacker Kiko Alonso. Thomas made up for his interception by finding Tuinei once again as Oregon took a 42-38 lead to open the 4th quarter. The defense once again stepped up and forced a three-and-out as momentum was planted firmly on the side that had chrome helmets and fans clad in lightning yellow.
Thomas found Tuinei almost immediately upon taking over, hitting him on a 41-yard completion that caught the Wisconsin defenders out of position. After a holding call that wiped out a beautiful throw (and 30-yard gain) from Thomas to Thomas, the Ducks eventually ended up going for it on 4th down with Tuinei once again making a play and picking up a first down.
Oregon ended up kicking a field goal after being stopped on the next third down, with Alejandro Maldonado's 30-yarder pushing their lead to 45-38 with 6:50 remaining.
Russell Wilson and the offense was moving right along trying to answer on the next drive. Abbrederis was wide open just past midfield and Wilson hit him in stride but he fumbled the ball along the sidelines and Oregon recovered the ball inbounds. The Ducks, for a change, actually slowed things down and picked up first down after first down to milk the rest of the time remaining off the clock.
Wisconsin had a chance late but, with two seconds remaining, spiked the ball with no time left on the clock.
OREGON WON. The Ducks picked up the school's first win in the Rose Bowl since 1917 thanks to a strong second half in a game that was all about offense but saw the defense make a few plays late to win the game. After back-to-back defeats in BCS games, Kelly finally got the program over the hump to capture his first bowl win in an exciting game that was paced just how he liked it.
HOW OREGON WON: Known mostly for running the ball, the offense was going up and down the field thanks largely to the arm of quarterback Darron Thomas, who finished 17-of-23 for 268 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas returned to Southern California and put on a show in his first bowl game, collecting 315 all-purpose yards by speeding past Badger defenders.
WHEN OREGON WON: Up 42-38, it felt like the last team to have the ball would win the game the way both defenses were playing - especially as they got tired late. After two penalties pushed the Ducks back, Chip Kelly opted to go for it on 4th-and-6 and Thomas found Tuinei on a slant to convert. Later in the drive Maldonado kicked a field goal to extend the lead one final time and, thanks to an Abbrederis fumbling the ball for Wisconsin, essentially give Oregon the win.
WHAT OREGON WON: The school's first Rose Bowl since 1917 for one but more than that, it marked the culmination of an impressive run under Kelly that was lacking a postseason win of note. From the national title game last year to LSU and USC this year, there were more signature losses than signature wins for the program. Now, with trophy in hand and plenty of celebrating Duck fans in the stands, Oregon has finally reached the elite level in college football.
WHAT WISCONSIN LOST: The second straight Rose Bowl loss by the Badgers will sting just as much as the first. Legitimately two hail mary's from playing in New Orleans for the national title, Wisconsin had high hopes at taking the trophy home to Madison and helping restore the Big Ten's reputation. Alas, it was not meant to be despite a great game and they end up on the receiving end of a Pac-12 victory in Pasadena.
THAT WAS CRAZY: The two teams combined to set Rose Bowl records for points scored in the 1st quarter, first half and the 83 at the final buzzer set a game record. De'Anthony Thomas' 91-yard was the longest in the game's history and both squads racked up 1,128 yards of total offense.
FINAL GRADE: A. Do you like offense? Do you like great games? Then toss in the greatest postseason game in college football and that's what happened Monday afternoon. There was plenty of offense - 7.8 yards per - and points to make things entertaining and even the defensive plays that were made excited the crowd. All-in-all, a great way to open college football in 2012 and close out the 2011 season for Oregon and Wisconsin.